LONDON: The UK lacks the resources to monitor 120 convicted terrorists and people deemed “terrorist risk offenders” due to be released across the year to March 2024, according to a report issued by the country’s inspectorates of prisons, the police and probation services.
The report warns that many of those set to be released may have become more dangerous due to radicalization in jail.
The 120 include Daesh and Al-Qaeda-inspired individuals, as well as far-right terrorists, The Independent reported.
The UK has a history of terrorist attacks committed by individuals who have already spent time in prison, including the 2019 London Bridge attack and the 2020 Streatham stabbings.
In February this year, Matt Jukes, head of UK counterterrorism policing, said: “History has taught us to be wary of those individuals both during their time in prison and on release.”
The report warns that releases of dangerous individuals are increasing as a result of more people being detained for terrorist offenses between 2017 and 2019 due to a “change in both extremist activity and policing tactics,” which led to more people being arrested for lower-level criminal activity.
Despite the serious nature of the offenses, some of those people deemed “terrorist risk offenders” are eligible for automatic release at the end of their sentences under UK law.
“This keeps people safe in the short term; however, it means those individuals will be released quicker, having received shorter sentences,” the report said.
It comes at a time when historical cases that involved attack planning and a risk of serious harm are now entering Parole Board windows for release.”
The report warns that releases on the scale anticipated are “unsustainable” for security services to effectively monitor, and they would need to find ways of managing the increased caseload alongside the surveillance of people already at large.
It also says authorities are failing to prosecute or even accurately record terrorist activities being committed in prison, leading to “missed opportunities” to keep terrorists off the streets.
Important criteria that should be taken into account over releases and future monitoring, including the potential for domestic abuse and child safeguarding issues, are being ignored, the report warns.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman warned that terrorists operating in the UK are becoming “increasingly unpredictable.”
Justin Russell, chief inspector of probation, told The Independent: “The risk of further terrorist attacks remains, and continued investment and commitment to interagency information sharing is essential.”
He added that monitoring of terrorists and those under suspicion, both inside prison and after release, have improved in recent years, “but there will be an increase in caseload for the National Security Division (of the probation service) as the longer-sentence prisoners start to get released, and some of the short-term guys are also being released.
“That will be a pretty big burden on them if the assumption is that every terrorism risk nominal has to be supervised for at least 12 months at the highest level.”
Andy Cooke, chief inspector of constabulary, told The Independent: “The threat posed by terrorism hasn’t gone away, and so, for the safety of our public and for our national security, efforts in this area cannot subside.
“As we tragically witnessed in 2019 and 2020, mistakes can have devastating consequences, and therefore every agency involved must continue to do everything they can to prevent something similar ever happening again.”
Maria Lovegrove, a senior counterterrorism officer in charge of the UK’s anti-radicalization Prevent program, told The Independent: “Known terrorist offenders will always pose a potential risk to the safety of the public and we must balance the management of new threats with the challenge this cohort presents.
“Our ability to do so is greater with genuine collaboration, and we will continue to build on the foundations outlined in the report in our efforts to protect the public.”
A Justice Ministry spokesperson said: “Public protection is our number one priority and, as inspectors have noted, the government has significantly improved the work done to keep our streets safe from the threat of terrorism — including ensuring terror offenders face longer behind bars and increased supervision on release. We will always ensure our work to keep the public safe from terrorists is properly resourced.”
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